Monday, July 23, 2012

Qatar prisons ‘always open for rights bodies’

Officials of the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC), the human rights department at the Ministry of Interior (MoI) and the Red Crescent visit Qatar’s prisons regularly to make sure that prisoners enjoyed their full rights according to international standards.

“The doors of the prison are always open for these human rights organisations to conduct field visits inside the various departments and make sure for themselves about the standard of the services presented to prisoners,” said Colonel Mohamed Saud al-Utaibi, director of the Penal and Reformatory Institutions department of MoI at a recent interview with local Arabic daily Al-Watan.

Col al-Utaibi welcomed such visits and pointed out that these representatives could meet prisoners alone to hear from them about their rights. He also indicated that remarks of such organisations are usually very simple and are taken into consideration accordingly.

Col Al-Utaibi affirmed that the inmates, whether Qataris or expatriates have equal rights and duties governed by the prisons law no 4 for 1995, which does not distinguish between Qataris or non-Qataris.

“According to the applied regulations, each inmate has the right to make two phone calls a month. In addition, exceptional phone calls are allowed in case of necessity or for reasons estimated by the director of the department or prison officials. Further, non-Qataris are allowed to receive periodical phone calls from their relatives, whether they were inside Doha or abroad,” pointed out the director.

Col al-Utaibi said that recently new methods of communication have been adopted through the Internet such as Yahoo Messenger, Skype, Facebook and Twitter, which would be offered free for the inmates.

“This would make things easy, especially for foreign inmates, and ease the burden of cost on their relatives. This idea was highly received by the inmates and they are eagerly waiting for its launch. However, this would not in any way be an alternative for the usual visits they are entitled to,” he said.

He explained that prisoners are housed in wards according to the type of crime they had been convicted of. Some wards have two persons, and others four or six, according to the type of building.

“Classifying inmates is considered one of the modern approaches in penal treatment inside prisons and it is among the provisions of law no 4 for 1995. Each category of prisoners is classified into grades according to age, type of crime, criminal history, and similarity in social and cultural backgrounds. Each category is given special place at the prison to facilitate the process of rehabilitation,” said Col al-Utaibi.

He further pointed out that this classification serves the interests of prisoners themselves for some were not really criminals but were deluded into crime. Therefore, it is not proper to put them with “criminals that may adversely affect their conduct”.

Prisoners are kept occupied through a variety of constructive activities including handicrafts, agriculture, sports and different cultural activities. There is also a separate workshop for female prisoners, where they practise suitable crafts such as clothes making, and drawing. Currently there are 13 female inmates in the prison.

During Ramadan, inmates of each ward enjoy a quality group Iftar. “Recently the department has hired qualified cooks and the meals offered to inmates are excellent in quality and quantity,” said the director.

Non-Muslims are offered their meals in a normal manner and they abstain from eating in front of their Muslim counterparts in Ramadan as a way respecting their feelings. However, they share their Iftar and Suhoor to enhance the spirit of participation among them.

The present central prison was inaugurated on February 13, 1986 on Salwa Road.

“It was given a modern design taking into consideration that prisons are places for correction, rehabilitation and reform,” explained Col al-Utaibi.

The prison contains eight buildings and two new buildings have been added lately. Col al-Utaibi indicated that there is a plan to build two more new wards.

“The issue is not to find new buildings to accommodate more prisoners for the perspective of the Ministry of Interior is to reduce the rates of crime. Consequently, the number of prisoners would decrease, and this has been really achieved lately,” stressed Col al-Utaibi.

(Source: Gulf Times)